DU colleges demand clear guidelines on trips during Covid-19 pandemic
Delhi University (DU) colleges on Saturday asked the varsity administration to come out with “clear guidelines” on trips during the pandemic, after 13 students from St Stephen’s College tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from a “chapel trip”.
Later on Saturday, DU announced that it was restricting entry of outsiders into its campuses and cancelled all bookings for events at college conference centres and seminar halls, in view of the rising Covid-19 cases, till further orders.
The St Stephen’s students had returned from the trip, arranged by the college, to Dalhousie on March 31 and tested positive on Friday. While the DU administration said that the college did not consult it, St Stephen’s principal John Varghese had told a college governing body member on email, which HT has seen, that they had taken permission from the students’ parents for the trip. Two staff members who had travelled with the group also tested positive and all the patients are in isolation within the campus, college officials, who did not wish to be named, said.
Delhi University’s spokesperson Balram Pani, who is also the varsity’s Dean of Colleges said, “The university has been releasing instructions from time to time to colleges asking them to adhere to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. The college (St Stephen’s) decided to take a trip amid the pandemic without consulting with the University administration ... they are responsible for this carelessness.”
St Stephen’s principal Varghese did not respond to several calls and texts for a comment on the issue.
But faculty members at several DU colleges said the university should not blame St Stephen’s in the absence of any clear guidelines.
“Why is there no clarity from the administration’s side on if the colleges can take students for trips amid the pandemic? Many colleges are organising trips. DU could order only mandatory educational trips as required for courses,” said an associate professor, requesting anonymity.
Principals from Dyal Singh College and Shaheed Bhagat Singh College (evening) confirmed that they had recently organised students’ trips that is required for their coursework.
“It was for final-year geography students and was required for their course. We took all measures and all our students are safe. Besides, there had been no guidelines from the university administration regarding educational trips,” said Sudhir Sinha, principal of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College (evening).
“There is no restriction on travel at present in the country. Also, our educational trip was organised days before the surge of Covid-19 in Delhi. We took all the necessary precautions and all our students are safe,” said Vinod Paliwal, principal of Dyal Singh College.
But a university academic council member insisted that caution was key at this time.
“Since both these colleges, unlike Stephen’s, don’t have hostels, we would not know if any student was infected or symptomatic. DU administration should issue guidelines regarding outstation trips,” said the member who did not wish to be named.
DU spokesperson Pani said that the administration may issue a new notification on Monday.
DU registrar Vikas Gupta, meanwhile on Saturday, issued fresh guidelines to all colleges and departments after an emergent meeting. “All students are advised to stay at home /hostel and avoid physical presence for their academic work at libraries, laboratories, unless very essential. Entry will be restricted inside faculty of science, faculty of arts, hostels, and halls. No outsider will be permitted,” the order stated. “The situation will be reviewed after 10 days and further decisions will be taken accordingly. The University of Delhi urges all its colleges, departments, centres, and hostels to remain vigilant to handle the present Covid-19 situation.”